The University of Queensland (UQ) is committed to upholding academic integrity as a core value.

We act with integrity and professionalism and uphold the highest ethical standards. We are committed to transparency and accountability.

The International Center for Academic Integrity explains that academic integrity is a commitment to the values of ‘honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility and courage’. 

The Higher Education Standards Framework 2015 issued by the Australian Government’s Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) defines academic integrity as ‘the moral code of academia'. It involves using, generating and communicating information in an ethical, honest and responsible manner’ (Monash University Academic Integrity Policy 2013 cited in TEQSA Guidance Note: Academic Integrity).

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UQ Academic Integrity Action Plan

The UQ Academic Integrity Action Plan (PDF, 523.7 KB) defines and promotes the principles of academic integrity at UQ. This Plan presents 13 recommendations that embody strategies to enhance current academic integrity, prevent student academic misconduct, and respond more effectively when misconduct is identified. The approach addresses the full life cycle from prevention, detection, response to ongoing continuous improvement.

Summary of recommendations

  • Establish a Student Academic Honour Code
  • Develop an operationally enforceable Student Code of Conduct, to replace the current Student Charter
  • Provide an educative online academic integrity program for students and staff to complete
  • Create an encouraging environment for students to report breaches of academic integrity by their peers
  • Adopt an educative approach to sharing past breaches and the penalties with students
  • Develop a support program for students with English as an additional language (EAL) or who identify as culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD)
  • Implement a campaign to promote the importance of academic integrity
  • Revise the academic integrity and misconduct policy
  • Support academic staff and integrity officers within schools regarding suspected and actual breaches of academic integrity (see resources, UQ staff login required)
  • Review the Assessment PPL entry to include Identify Verified Assessment with Hurdles
  • Support staff in the design and uptake of new assessments and reliable eAssessment tasks.

The implementation of the Plan began in 2020 and many of the recommendations have already been realised. 

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Background information

In 2016 the UQ Assessment Sub-Committee asked the Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation (ITaLI) to examine literature and undertake an environmental scan of other university responses to academic integrity challenges. The authors (Slade, Rowland & McGrath) prepared an issues paper, Addressing Student Dishonesty in Assessment (PDF, 715KB) which highlighted a set of eight key areas that need to be considered together for the best outcomes. These areas are:

  1. Ensure robust policies
  2. Support academic investigation
  3. Take punitive action (within an educative approach)
  4. Bolster structures and processes
  5. Build a culture of honour
  6. Educate students and staff
  7. Strengthen assessment design
  8. Explore technological solutions.

Poor academic integrity poses a serious risk to the university, staff, students, alumni and society generally, including:

  • threat to the culture of honesty
  • undermining UQ’s reputation
  • impact on the morale of academics
  • equity issues for honest students
  • under-qualified graduates in society.
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Academic integrity and assessment security

Academic integrity is characterised by the values and behaviour learners need to ethically undertake their studies. Assessment security emphasises strengthening assessment tasks against cheating attempts and detecting cheating behaviour. Both academic integrity and assessment security are needed to ensure students meet their required degree outcomes (CRADLE, 2020). 

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Who is responsible for academic integrity?

University responsibilities

In Part A, Section 5.2 of the Higher Education Standards Framework TEQSA requires UQ – as an education provider:

  • to have policies that promote and uphold academic integrity and policies and procedures which address allegations of misconduct
  • to take action to mitigate foreseeable risks to academic integrity
  • to provide students and staff with guidance and training on what constitutes academic misconduct and the development of good practices in maintaining academic integrity, and
  • to ensure that academic integrity is maintained in arrangements with any other party involved in the provision of higher education (source: TEQSA Guidance Note: Academic Integrity 2019).

Institutionally, the UQ Teaching and Learning Plan 2018–2021 supports authentic, progressive and fair assessment (Goal 3) and strengthening assessment design and learning opportunities for students to maintain academic integrity (3.3).

Policies and procedures

Educative online academic integrity program for staff and students

UQ’s new online academic integrity program aims to:

  • strengthen a cohesive culture of academic integrity across the UQ community
  • enable staff to support students in matters of academic integrity, and
  • provide practical interactive modules for students that emphasise values and ethical decision-making skills and behaviours in studying with integrity.

Module outline

For coursework students For staff

Part A

  1. What is academic integrity?
  2. How do I show academic integrity in my preparation?
  3. How do I show academic integrity in my work?

Phase 2 Modules

  1. How can I feel more confident about academic integrity?
  2. How do I deal with more complex situations?

Higher Degree Research (HDR) students currently complete the Research Integrity Training Module.

Part A

  1. What is academic integrity?
  2. Promoting a culture of academic integrity
  3. Identifying and responding to breaches of academic integrity

Part B

  1. Teaching, learning and assessment: implications for academic integrity
  2. Assessment design choices for academic integrity

Student modules are compulsory for all new students and students starting a new program from Semester 1, 2021. Failure to complete the modules will result in grades being withheld and inability to enrol in courses the following semester, until such time that the modules have been completed.

eLearning support

The eLearning team provides support for a range of tools that can help you manage your assessment in ways that encourage academic integrity, including:

All staff responsibilities

  • Model academic integrity
  • Design assessment and courses that encourage integrity
  • Use Turnitin text- or data matching software (e.g. Cadmus) for submission, marking and feedback
  • Teach students how to act with academic integrity in their courses
  • Identify and report suspected misconduct.

School academic integrity officers responsibilities

  • Promote the values and practice of academic integrity to students and staff
  • Provide guidance to academic staff about the delivery of educational strategies associated with academic integrity
  • Provides guidance and support to decision-makers in relation to student academic misconduct.

This role is defined in PPL 3.60.04 Student Integrity and Misconduct.

Students responsibilities

  • Learn how to study and engage in assessment with integrity
  • Act with integrity
  • Seek appropriate support when needed.
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Why students cheat?

Research results about the influences and pressures on students to cheat can be explained as:

Individual

  • Family expectations
  • Desire to excel
  • High levels of stress
  • Lack of preparation
  • Lack of linguistic proficiency in English (Bretag & Harper 2018)
  • Poor ethical decision-making skills and/or situational ethics (Rowland et al. 2018)

Contextual

  • Pressure to perform
  • Highly competitive environment (McCabe et al. 1999)
  • Peer attitudes and behaviour (McCabe & Trevino 1997)
  • Perception of many opportunities to cheat e.g. no matching software used, same assessment tasks used over semesters/several years (Bretag & Harper 2018)
  • Dissatisfaction with the teaching and learning environment (Bretag & Harper 2018)

Research by Bretag & Harper et al. (2016-2018) found that non-cheating students are rarely concerned about contract cheating. They do not realise that contract cheating is a serious breach of academic integrity and has potential future professional consequences.
 

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Contract cheating

The term ‘contract cheating’ covers paid or unpaid agreements made by a student with a third party to complete their assessment task/s for them, which in turn, is submitted as the student’s own work. Informal arrangements for others to complete a student’s assignments (such as family, friends or other students) have been known to exist for many years.

New forms of academic dishonesty, however, are now available to students through outsourcing assessment tasks to online contract cheating or ghost-writing services. Students can easily access these services to buy affordable and timely delivered assessment responses. Each assessment item is individualised, rather than taken from an existing source, so it is difficult to detect contract cheating with anti-plagiarism data matching software such as Turnitin.

Research by Rowland, Slade, Wong & Whiting (2018) examined the persuasive marketing features of ten contract cheating sites (based on optimisation in web browsers) and highlighted the concern that vulnerable students, when under pressure in their studies, may be lured into or rationalise the appropriateness of using these attractive online services.

Student and staff research in Australian universities

The findings of the large OLT-funded project, ‘Contract cheating and assessment design: Exploring the Connection’ (2016-2018) led by Associate Professor Tracey Bretag and Dr Rowena Harper, provided further insights into contract cheating practices in Australian universities. Participants in this research spanned eight Australian universities, 1147 teaching staff and 14,086 students. 

A student survey found that:

  • Students share their academic work with others –
    • 27% provide completed assignments to others  
    • 15% bought, sold or traded notes.
  •  6% self-reported in having engaged in one of five cheating behaviours:
    • Obtaining a completed assignment to submit as own
    • Providing exam assistance
    • Receiving exam assistance
    • Taking an exam for another
    • Arranging for another to take one’s exam.
  • Assessment design impacts students academic integrity. Students report they are less likely to cheat on assessment which is:
    • Completed in class
    • Personalised and unique
    • A viva
    • Reflection on practicum.

A staff survey showed contract cheating often goes unreported, as staff feel that:

  • They cannot prove contract cheating breaches
  • Pursing misconduct is too time-consuming
  • They are not encouraged to report
  • Penalties for misconduct are too lenient.
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What can I do to strengthen academic integrity?

Enhance your assessment design and practices

  • Have the student present in assessment task – either face-to-face or virtually
  • Develop authentic assessment
  • Help students understand the purpose of your assessment
  • Add a work in-class component
  • Design tasks that engage students.

Work with your students

  • Work to develop strong relationships between your teaching team and students
  • Model academic integrity e.g. acknowledging sources, respect copyright
  • Encourage and support students to act with integrity 
  • Talk to your students about the importance of academic integrity for them now and in the future. Link to professional integrity.

Identify and pursue misconduct (including contract cheating)

The Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE) at Deakin University suggests the following strategies:

  • Tell students the markers will be looking for cheating
  • Tell markers to look for cheating when marking
  • Ask markers to use their discipline knowledge to spot cheating
  • Look for lack of appropriate discipline theory
  • Look for missing sections e.g. tables, figures and reflections
  • Consider follow up vivas/dialogue between markers and students.

Refine your online assessment

You can improve integrity in the online environment, by rethinking your course assessment. Ways in which you can do this include:  

Strategies that will lessen student susceptibility to academic misconduct without reducing the effectiveness of your assessment to gauge student learning you might like to employ, include: 
 
Consider if the exam or assignment is particularly critical. Try to reduce the number of assessment tasks where possible, particularly if you have more than three (3). 

Use an assessment type more than once where possible so that it is familiar to your students. 

Provide students with rich feedback through formative assessment to support their preparedness and confidence to tackle the summative assessment.  

Make use of practice assessments to familiarise students with the assessment task and the process for completion and submission. 

Communicate in a variety of ways to ensure students have a clear understanding of what is required of them to complete the task successfully and be sure you and your tutors are available to support them through the process. 

Be conscious that with fewer exams being sat and more varied assessment types being used, students will be spending more time engaged in completing at-home assignment tasks. Recognise the time this can take and the stresses associated with competing deadlines. Be ready to be flexible. 

Think about how to ensure integrity for the assessments which are critical within your programs – approaches such as virtual oral exams have high assurances of integrity but may take significant staff resources to conduct. 

Communicate with your students and teaching teams about cheating and integrity in digital assessment. You could use the Academic integrity slides for class discussion (PPTX, 1.1 MB) and Academic integrity slides for class discussion notes (PDF, 365.4 KB) in one of your first classes or when you speak about an upcoming assessment task. Also, encourage your students to complete the Academic Integrity Modules (AIM)

Include the Academic integrity notice for Learn.UQ (Blackboard) (DOCX, 66.1 KB) to your course site. 

Require students to take the Academic integrity pledge for students (DOCX, 57.4 KB) and submit it with all assessment.

Deakin’s Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE) has provided an evidence-based guide (PDF, 3.5 MB) and decision support tools (PDF, 133 KB) to assist with understanding academic integrity and redesigning assessment for full online delivery without invigilated exams. 

Resources to support UQ academic and professional staff

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References and more information

Asia Pacific Forum on Education Integrity (APFEI), Addressing contract cheating in Australia, June 2019

Bretag, T, Harper, R, Burton, M, Ellis, C, Newton, P, Saddiqui, S, Rozenberg, P & van Haeringen, K. (2018). Contract cheating: A survey of Australian university students, Studies in Higher Education.

Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (2018) 'How to detect contract cheating'

McCabe, D & Trevino, L (1997) ‘Individual and contextual Influences on Academic Dishonesty: A Multicampus Investigation’, Research in Higher Education, Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 379-396.

McCabe, D, Trevino, L & Butterfield, K (1999) ‘Academic Integrity in Honor Code and Non-Honor Code Environments: A Qualitative Investigation’, The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 70, No.2, pp. 211-234.

Oxford Brookes University's Reduce the risk of plagiarism in just 30 minutes! (PDF, 73KB).

Rowland, S, Slade, C, Wong, K & Whiting, B (2018) Just Turn to Us: the persuasive features of contract cheating websites, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, Vol 43, No. 4, pp. 652-665.

Slade, C, Rowland, S & McGrath, D (2016) UQ Student Dishonesty in Assessment Issues Paper (PDF, 715KB) Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation, The University of Queensland.

Slade, C, Rowland, S & McGrath, D (2018) Talking about contract cheating: facilitating a forum for collaborative development of assessment practices to combat student dishonesty, International Journal for Academic Development. Vol. 24, No. 1, pp.21-34

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, Good Practice Note: Addressing contract cheating to safeguard academic integrity, October 2017

UQ Library provides resources to help students including:
Types of assignments
Writing, citing and submitting assignments
Academic integrity and student conduct
Plagiarism.

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